Political satirist Stephen Colbert has scored 13 percent in a Rasmussen Reports poll shortly after announcing he was running for president. But the host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report has named snack food maker Doritos as a sponsor for his campaign, a clear violation of Federal Election Commission campaign finance rules. Also, if the FEC decides that Colbert isn’t joking, they may not allow the TV show host to use the airwaves to promote his own campaign.
What the commentators said
This whole thing is kind of sad, said the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Politics is serious business. “It involves understanding things like compromise, unintended consequences of well-intentioned law as well as serving the best needs to the most people with the least negative impact on others’ lives.” It’s fine for comedians to joke about politics, but it’s unsettling that voters are “responding to a comedian more than others who have spent their lives in public service.”
Don’t worry, said Juliet Lapidos in Slate. Colbert may not be in this for long. “Chances are the government won’t commence legal proceedings unless someone files an official complaint.” But if that does happen, Colbert and Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, could be slapped with huge penalties. Colbert’s “only safe option, therefore, is to spoil the joke by dropping out before someone complains.”
“The absurdities of our nation’s campaign-finance laws have rarely, if ever, been thrown into sharper relief,” said The New York Sun in an editorial. On one hand, “one has to think the FEC would be embarrassed to interfere in what is so clearly a joke.” But on the other, if it doesn't get involved it is “conceding quite a bit as to the foolishness of the laws.” What Colbert’s run for President is really showing “is that money and in-kind contributions are overregulated in America and that a government agency is in no position to judge what’s satire and what’s not.”